Unsung Heroes: Mission Zero

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Chapter Eight

His long-fingered hands wrapped around the steaming cup, Lifeline leaned the wooden chair back against the wall of the cottage. After last night’s events with Billy, the medic had spent a sleepless night after retiring to his makeshift bed on the couch. After an hour of staring up at the darkened ceiling, he’d slipped outside, settling into one of the wooden chairs on the front porch. Edwin had spent the rest of the night thinking over what had happened with Billy and mentally berating himself over it.

Wrapped up in a warm fleecy blanket, the medic had watched the sun rise, those first golden rays of dawn doing little to warm him, before he’d slipped back inside and as quietly as possible made a pot of coffee. With a steaming mug of the dark brew in his hand, he’d gone back outside and resumed his seat on the porch, the blanket still wrapped around him.

Billy woke to the smell of coffee, long ingrained habits waking his body regardless of his own sleepless night. Pouring a mug of it himself, the Marine padded out onto the front porch for a smoke, oblivious to Edwin's presence, his brain still fogged with sleep as he shook out a cigarette and lit it.

The mug to his lips, Lifeline looked over as the front door opened and Billy stepped through. The medic felt a slight pang at the man’s appearance, hoping that he’d have more time before having to face the Marine after what had transpired the previous night. He was grateful however, when it appeared that the other man had not noticed him and he took a quiet sip.

Billy took a long drag from the cigarette, holding it in his lungs for several moments before exhaling it slowly, smiling faintly to himself as he took in the early morning scents and sights. Sitting quietly behind the Marine, Edwin couldn’t help the lingering gaze that swept over Billy’s sunlit form. It was only a few moments later that he realized what he was doing and wrenched his eyes away, turning his head to look in the opposite direction while his mind silently tried to will Billy to go back inside.

The Marine finished his cigarette, much more aware than when he'd walked out. He could hear Edwin moving around, but didn't turn. He wasn't sure what to say at this point, and he was pretty certain Lifeline didn't either. So he decided it would be easier if he simply said nothing.

After a few moments, Lifeline glanced back over in Billy’s direction briefly before looking down at the mug in his hands. Finally the Marine turned, leaning against the porch railing and letting his eyes fall on Lifeline. "You look like hell."

The medic started a little at Billy’s voice, his dark eyes darted up to look at the other man. “Sorry, I don’t have my face on yet.” Edwin tried to make his voice light despite his mood.

Billy managed a slight smile at the words. "Would you rather I leave you alone for now?"

Edwin shrugged slightly underneath the blanket and raised his mug to his lips, taking a sip. Pushing away from the railing, Billy nodded a little and made his way for the front door, the shrug enough to tell the Marine that Edwin really wasn't up to dealing with him just yet.

“Billy,” Lifeline’s spoke just as the Marine’s hand reached for the doorknob.

"...Yeah?"

The medic started to speak, but hesitated before closing his mouth and shaking his head. Rising to his feet, he let the blanket fall away from him to pool in the seat of the chair. “How do you want your eggs?”

"Cooked. I'm not real picky," Billy replied, before heading into the house and toward the bathroom to shower and shave.


“We’re in position, Baroness.” The trooper’s voice crackled through the ear bud.

“Wait for my signal.” The raven-haired woman replied, her Eastern European accent putting an emphasis on letter “r” as she spoke. “As soon as you receive it, move out. I want them both, and no mistakes this time.” The tone the woman’s voice spoke volumes about what would happen to those who failed her orders.

Damn Tomax and Xamot. If they had not blown this the first time… The Baroness sighed in frustration before raising a pair of binoculars to her eyes. The two men had been outside the small cottage earlier but there had been no more outside movement since then. It had only been a stroke of luck that an undercover Cobra agent stationed at the hospital had been able to track Billy Coen and the three men who had taken him. It had only taken a few hours of reconnaissance work to find Coen and, judging from the description, Edwin Steen, the unlucky man who had picked up Coen on a deserted stretch of road.

Steen himself wasn’t important; it was only the possibility that Coen might have confided in him that had made him a target. The fact that the two of them were still together seemed to indicate that that was indeed the case. No matter, thought the woman, one death or two wouldn't make much of a difference in the bigger scheme of things. What was important was the research that Cobra was conducting under the guise of the Umbrella Corporation and that research had to be protected at all costs.

Lowering the binoculars, The Baroness smiled. “Move out,” she instructed her driver.


Billy braced his foot on the porch railing and stretched, feeling better now that he'd eaten. In the interest of giving Edwin some time to himself, Billy had made the decision during breakfast to take a solo run and leave the medic alone for a while. Billy finished his stretches, and patted the small of his back, reassured by the feel of the gun there. He refused to go anywhere unarmed anymore, some paranoid tendencies still strongly with him as he stepped off the porch and set off into the forest at a slow jog. He'd move faster later, he knew, using the run to try and work out his frustration over the entire situation as it sat.


Leaving the dishes in the sink, Lifeline retreated to the bathroom to shower. Breakfast with Billy had been quiet, the two of them speaking very little to one another. After turning on the shower, he peeled off his clothes and set his glasses on the sink. Edwin sighed and closed his eyes as he stepped under the hot spray, letting the water cascade down over him.


The Baroness watched Billy Coen leave the porch of the small cottage through the binoculars, his departure causing a slight change in her plans. Dropping the binoculars to the seat of the S.T.U.N., she then vaulted over the side of the vehicle. “I want two groups. You,” she indicated one of the higher ranking troopers to her right. “You and your men will come with me after Coen. You,” this time she indicated a trooper on her left. “Your group will take care of the man inside the cottage.”

Pulling her laser pistol from the holster at her hip, The Baroness surveyed the men around her. “I want them alive.” Without another word, the black-clad woman started off in the direction that Billy had just taken.


Lifeline rubbed at his dark hair with the towel for a few minutes as he sat on the edge of the bed, having already put on a clean pair of jeans. Dropping the towel, he reached for the t-shirt that he’d taken out earlier and pulled it on. After resettling his glasses he took the damp towel back into the bathroom and hung it over the curtain rod. Rubbing his hand through his still slightly damp hair, he returned to the kitchen to finish the dishes.


Billy couldn't help but enjoy the sunshine as he ran, the physical exertion was helping to clear his mind, letting him forget for awhile the awkwardness with Edwin and just enjoy his freedom.


Moving silently through the trees, The Baroness and her men trailed behind Billy, keep back far enough that they remained out of sight, but close enough not to lose sight of him. As the man neared another open expanse of ground, the woman signaled to her men with a wave of her hand, sending half of them off to the right, while she and those who stayed with her fanned out to the left, their intent to surround the Marine and capture him.


Edwin had just finished with the last of the breakfast dishes and was emptying out the coffee pot when he heard the squeak of footsteps on the porch through the open windows. Believing it to be Billy, he didn’t give it any thought until the front door burst inward, the small explosion rocking the cottage. The medic’s eyes widened in surprise as a very familiar blue uniform appeared out of the light haze of smoke and he heard an equally familiar battle cry.

“COBRA!”

Lifeline had time enough to dive under the small kitchenette table as the first laser rifle shots rang out, blasting through the wall where he had just been standing. From his precarious vantage point, he watched as several more Cobra troopers filtered into the cottage.


As he broke into an opening, and was struck dead on by the sun, Billy was forced to close his eyes for a few moments. As he did, he heard an unusual rustling and he slowed down to a walk. Visions of the Tyrant that had chased him before flashed across his mind's eye and he swallowed hard to try and ease his frantically beating heart.

Raising her hand once more, The Baroness signaled her men to stop. The raven-haired woman waited for a moment, as she watched Coen before raising her hand once more and slashing downward, giving the signal for her men to attack.

The lasers sang out in chorus, the first two tearing holes in Billy's pants, a third grazing his shoulder and making him hiss as he dropped into a crouch and pivoted on the balls of his feet, pulling the gun and firing in the direction the first few shots had come from before taking off at a sprint.

“Alive you fools!” The Baroness’s accented voice rang out over the laser fire. “He has to be taken alive!” With a careful aim she took a shot at Coen, the laser blast tearing up the grass right in front of the Marine’s feet.


More laser fire rang out inside the cottage, the high-energy blasts leaving holes in the walls and furniture. Edwin knew that he couldn’t stay where he was, but there was nowhere for him to go, his only escape lay in the now devastated front door.

“Give up, there’s no escape.” The trooper’s voice called out as he signaled his companions to cease firing. One by one the Cobra troopers stopped firing, leaving an almost unnerving silence inside the cottage. “We have you surrounded.”

Almost frantically, Lifeline looked around him, searching for something – anything – that he could use against the blue-clad invaders. The medic’s eyes fell on the coffee pot, laying on the floor a few away where he had dropped it before taking refuge under the table. Giving the Cobra troopers a quick glance, he silently scooted closer and reached for the pot.

Here goes nothing, Edwin said to himself as he crawled out from under the table and stood up, the empty coffee pot down to his side and out of view of the Cobra troopers.

“Put your hands up!” The trooper commanded, his laser rifle aimed at the middle of Lifeline’s chest.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but please don’t shoot.” The medic’s voice was calm, his dark eyes flicking around the interior of the cottage from behind his tinted glasses. As instructed, he slowly raised his hands, the coffee pot coming into plain view.

The trooper laughed. “What are you planning to do with that? Invite us for for tea?

“Would you like sugar or lemon with that?” Edwin asked, before lobbing the coffee pot with all his strength at the trooper, smiling to himself when it impacted with the man’s helmeted head, dropping him to the ground. In the moment of surprise that followed, the medic made a mad dash for the blasted front door, laser fire following him as he dived through it.


Billy kept running, cutting a wide arc through the forest and trying to double back for the cottage. While he didn't like the idea of possibly putting Edwin in danger, the chances that the other man was under attack too were pretty solid and Billy didn't want Edwin facing it alone.


The Baroness followed Billy, blasts from her pistol tearing up the ground around the Marine’s feet trying to get the man to stumble and slow down. No matter how far or fast he ran, Coen would not escape her. As he neared the cottage, close enough to see Edwin dart out of it, Billy heaved a sigh of relief. But the split second it slowed him down cost him. He stumbled, tripping where Edwin had before, and went tumbling to the ground. Swearing profusely, he scrambled to his feet and tried to get moving again.

The Baroness smiled triumphantly as the Marine hit the ground, several of her men now only yards away from him.


As he cleared the devastated doorway, several blasts of laser fire followed Lifeline, hitting the wood of the railing on the porch and burning right through it. Without slowing, he vaulted over the railing and hit the ground before quickly glancing around him to gauge the situation. As he looked to the right, he saw several more blue uniforms including a black-clad form that he knew all too well. Baroness!


Well fuck it, Billy thought, staggering a little when he got to his feet. He started moving again, slower than before as a lightly sprained ankle made itself known, raising his weapon to fire at the soldiers trying to slow Edwin's escape. One of us needs to get out of here...


His attention caught by the Baroness and her soldiers, Lifeline’s eyes widened as he saw Billy rise up from the ground. “Billy!” The call left his lips before he even realized it and without a thought, he started towards the Marine.


'What the hell is he doing?!' The Marine thought. "Get the hell outta here!" he called back sharply.

Billy’s words were drowned out by the laser fire that had started up once again behind Edwin.

“Don’t let them get away you fools!” The Baroness shouted, the blasts from her own laser pistol adding to those flickering through the air.

Lifeline’s long legs closed the ground between he and Billy, and within moments he was at the Marine’s side.

"What the hell are you doing?" Billy asked, his tone incredulous, even as he fired back at the Baroness this time.


“Scarlett, we’ve got confirmation of Cobra activity.” Mainframe turned in his chair as he spoke, his eyes falling on the flame-haired woman sitting at the console to the side of him.

Scarlett was instantly out of her chair. “Where?” Her blue eyes settled on the screen in front of Mainframe as she joined him.

The Joe computer specialist turned back to face the monitor, his fingers tapping a few buttons to get the coordinates. Mainframe’s eyes widened as he looked at the screen.

“Mainframe?” Scarlett raised her eyebrow as she looked at him.

“It can’t be . . .” Mainframe’s voice was soft, as if he were speaking to himself.

Scarlett’s brows furrowed together. “Where is it?”

Mainframe paled a bit as he looked up at his fellow officer.


Edwin ducked his head as a laser shot arced over his head. “Yell at me later. Our only chance is to try and lose them in the woods.”

"Fine fine, let's just get moving," Billy said, reaching around to return fire. "Preferably before I run out of ammunition."

Lifeline nodded and started moving towards the line of woods, trying to keep his head down.

“Stop them, you fools, before they get into the woods!” The Baroness screamed at the blue-clad Cobra troopers behind them.

Billy trailed behind the medic. "Whatever you do," he called to Edwin. "Keep moving." That said, he ejected the clip, slapped in a new one, and fired anew into the group of soldiers following them.

Don’t have to tell me twice, Lifeline said to himself as he entered the line of brush that led into the woods, another blast of laser fire hitting the trunk of a tree to his left.

“After them!” The accented-voice was shrill as the Baroness continued to screech at the Cobra troops.


Duke’s icy blue eyes were intent as they bored into those of the three men in front of him, his lips thinned into a tight line. He’d listened to Mainframe, Gung Ho and Mutt as they told him about Lifeline and Billy Coen. The blond sat at his desk silently, his hands clasped before him as he looked at the soldiers in front of him.

“Dismissed.” The word was curt, Duke’s tone warning the others not to even attempt to say anything else.

Mainframe, Gung Ho and Mutt looked at one another. “What about Lifeline?” It was Mainframe who asked the question that had been not only on his mind, but that of the other two Joes.

“Scarlett and Snake Eyes are already gone.”

Mainframe nodded his head before nudging Mutt and Gung Ho out of Duke’s office ahead of him.


Once they headed back into the forest and the foliage got heavier, Billy was able to stop firing, and concentrate more on keeping up with Edwin. His ankle was starting to ache, but he didn't dare say a word about it. There would be time to treat it later. As he and Edwin moved deeper into the woods, the sounds and fire of pursuit didn’t lessen. Just when they thought they had managed to slip past the Baroness and her men, they’d soon find laser blasts arcing over their heads and tearing up the ground around their feet. The two of them finally hunched down behind the trunk of a massive old tree, the sounds of footsteps all around them. “We’re not getting anywhere,” Edwin whispered, his eyes intent on the trees around them.

Billy frowned. "We need a diversion. Something to get them off our asses. Or one of us needs to hold off our friends back there while the other makes an escape."

“Maybe if we split up,” Lifeline mused. “We could try to circle back around to the cottage.”

"Sounds like a plan," Billy said with a nod. "Meet you back there, then?"

Edwin nodded, his eyes on Billy for a moment before he rose up to his feet and quickly darted away.


Scarlett strode away from the scorched and demolished doorway of the cottage, her features tight, her blue eyes unreadable. There was no sign of Lifeline, Billy Coen, or Cobra within the perimeter that had been set up upon the Joes arrival. The only evidence that anything had been amiss was the twisted door frame and the blackened holes of laser fire that riddled the inside and outside of the cottage. The scarlet-haired woman made her way over to one of the Brawlers parked nearby and clicked on her wrist communicator.

“Scarlett to Lowlight, anything?”

A few moments passed before a mans’ voice crackled over the communicator. “Nothing so far,” Lowlight replied. “We found signs of laser fire in a couple of places and footprints. There's some tracks from what looks like a Cobra S.T.U.N.”

“Finish your circuit around the perimeter and head back here,” Scarlett instructed before turning her attention to the returning group that was heading her way. Lifeline where are you?


Billy stopped as he heard voices near the cabin, pausing some distance away and listening. These troops didn't look like the Cobra folks who'd invaded earlier, but that didn't mean anything.


Scarlett hailed Lowlight and Heavy Duty as they returned, the two armed men heading straight for her as they slung their weapons over their shoulders. “Anything?” she inquired as they joined her by the Brawler.

Both men shook their heads. “Not a sign of anybody,” Heavy Duty replied.

“That can only mean one thing,” the blue-eyed woman said. “Cobra has them.” Scarlett sighed. “Get ready to pull out while I report in to Duke.”

“Where’s Snake Eyes?” Lowlight asked as he looked around at the assembled group.

“He’s not back yet?” Scarlett also scanned the dozen or so soldiers that had accompanied her.

“Don’t see him.”

The red-haired woman sighed once again. “He’ll be here.” Without another word, she turned away from Lowlight and Heavy Duty before clicking her wrist communicator once again.


As the group spoke, Billy slipped in closer and closer to the cottage, doing his best to stay out of sight. There was a part of him that entertained the vague hope that these folks might just be part of the Joes, but he wanted to be certain before he revealed himself.


From his hidden vantage point, the Joe known as Snake Eyes watched the dark-haired man as he cautiously moved closer and closer to the cottage and his teammates. Moving parallel to the man, the black-clad Snake Eyes easily moved through the trees, his ninja training allowing him to easily merge with the shadows as he moved. From the description that the Joes had received and the picture that he’d glimpsed in the file that Scarlett had been leafing through, Snake Eyes had a pretty good idea of who the man was and couldn’t blame him for being cautious.

After a few minutes, when it seemed that Billy Coen was not going to move any further, Snake Eyes made his move, silently sliding through the shadows until he was right behind the dark-haired man. Without the slightest sound, the ninja struck, his black-clad form rising from the shadows.


Billy wasn't sure what happened. One minute he was slipping toward the cottage. The next, he was face down in the ground and seeing stars. What the fuck was that?! he thought frantically, rolling onto his back and bringing his gun to bear.

With practiced ease, Snake Eyes kicked the gun from the man’s hand sending it soaring into the trees. Before Billy could react, the black-clad ninja had captured the Marine’s hands and pinned him to the ground. "SHIT!" Billy hissed as he was pressed down again, struggling in vain to get loose.

Seemingly without effort, the black-clad man was on his feet, pulling Billy up with him in the process, the Marine still held in Snake Eyes’ tight grip. In the blink of an eye, the ninja produced a length of cord and expertly wound it around the dark-haired man’s wrists, binding them tightly. With a slight shove he pushed Billy forward in the direction of the cottage.

The Marine swallowed hard against a sudden surge of panic as his hands were tied back, and he immediately tried to free them. He knew on some level that it was pointless, but it was either try or risk a panic attack.

Reaching out, Snake Eyes took Billy by the arm, pulling him with him as he moved towards his teammates, holding him in an iron grip. As the two emerged from the tree line, the ninja immediately sought out Scarlett’s trademark red tresses, pulling the Marine with him towards her.

Scarlett had just finished her report to headquarters when she looked up and saw Snake Eyes leading a bound Billy Coen towards her. A slight murmur fell over some of those gathered near her and she quickly stepped forward to meet the two men.

Billy gritted his teeth, shoving aside panic and everything else except for anger, which he clung to desperately. He said nothing, however, electing to let the others speak first. Snake Eyes pulled the Marine to a stop once Scarlett reached them, releasing the man’s arm before moving to stand silently to the side. The flame-haired woman’s blue eyes flicked over Billy for a moment before she turned her attention to the black-clad ninja. “Lifeline?” She asked him.

Reaching into one of the many pouches attached to the belt around his waist, Snake Eyes pulled out a pair of glasses and held them out to Scarlett. Her lips in a tight line, the woman took them in her hand and looked at them. One of the tinted lenses was cracked, the wire frame surrounding it twisted out of shape. Turning her gaze back up to the black-clad man she spoke. “Did you find anything else?”

Snake Eyes answered with a serious of gestures, his hands moving in patterns that resembled sign language. As he finished, he gestured towards the bound man standing next to him causing Scarlett’s sapphire gaze to fall on Billy. The Marine met her gaze solidly, holding onto his silence.

“Where’s Lifeline?” The woman’s voice was curt and to the point, the tone matching the serious look in her eyes.

"I don't know. I lost him in the forest when those sonsofbitches ambushed us."

Several of the other Joes moved closer wanting to hear news of their missing teammate. “Where?” Scarlett asked, already preparing to send out another round of search parties.

"They ambushed me out running. They got him here at the house. We headed into the forest to lose the Cobra soldiers, and split up. We were going to meet back up here. He would have come back from that direction," Billy replied, nodding toward the forest near the cottage, across from where Snake Eyes had apprehended him.

Scarlett’s eyes flicked to the black-clad man standing next to Billy. “Snake Eyes?”

The ninja shook his head, his hands once again making a series of intricate gestures. Scarlett’s lips had thinned once again as she turned her attention back to Billy. “Do you know if he had his watch on?”

"Far as I know, he did."

Scarlett tapped the communicator strapped to her wrist. “Mainframe?”

“Right here Scarlett.” Came the immediate reply. “Did you find Lifeline?”

“No. I want you to run the GPS and see if you can get his signal. Tell Duke we’re heading back. Let him know we’ve got Coen in custody, too.”

“Will do.” The Joe’s computer specialist replied. “Mainframe, over and out.” With that, the link went silent.

Turning her attention to the Joe’s around her, the red-head immediately began to bark out orders. “Saddle up everybody, we’re heading back.”

I am so fucked, Billy thought, and sighed.

Scarlett’s blue eyes flicked back to Billy for a moment before she turned away and back towards the Brawler. “Coen rides with us, Snake Eyes.”

Taking Billy by the arm, Snake Arms pulled him along as he followed behind Scarlett. Billy had to practically jog to keep up with the man, which wouldn't have bothered him if he hadn't been getting dragged along. Still, he knew better than to say a word.


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